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Mexico Travel - Driving In Mexico
( Originally Published 1939 - Presented For Historical Purpose )
THE PAN-AMERICAN HIGHWAY IS PAVED ALL THE WAY TO Mexico City from every town in the United States which has a paved highway leading out of it. Just what your best route would be from your home town to San Antonio, Texas, I cannot tell. But it is easy enough to figure out from the road maps that the various gasoline stations supply.
There is no particular preparation necessary for driving to Mexico. Just be sure that your car is in reasonably good shape. If you wish the latest information on roads, I suggest that you stop at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio and consult Mr. William Harrison Furlong, who is the United States representative of the Mexi can National Highways Commission. If you are merely driving to Monterrey or to Mexico City, there is no necessity for seeing him, since the road is well paved and quite safe for a careful driver. From San Antonio there is a good paved road (U.S. Highway 281) to Laredo, where you will have your customs examination.
To enter Mexico, you need only the papers mentioned in the section on "Formalities," page i i. Laredo is a border town with excellent hotels, of which, I think, the Plaza ranks highest and the Hamilton second.
If you did not see Mr. Furlong in San Antonio, and if, on approaching the border, you feel that you would like a little more information, you can stop at the office of the Mexican National Highways Commission in the Plaza Hotel at Laredo, which has the most up-to-date information in town.
If you arrive at Laredo late in the afternoon or in the early evening, I advise your waiting until the next day to cross into Mexico. There are no passport or customs technicalities that will forbid your crossing at any time, but your drive in Mexico will arrange itself better if you cross in the morning. Remember that on the other side of the border there is no place where you would want to stay overnight until you reach either Sabinas Hidalgo, 82 miles away, or Monterrey, 146 miles away.
You should allow at least two, and preferably three, days for your drive to Mexico City, particularly if it is your first trip to Mexico.
I would schedule my drive into Mexico City as follows:
First day: Cross the border in the morning, stop at Sabinas Hidalgo for lunch, proceed to Monterrey in the afternoon, spend the balance of the afternoon at Monterrey, and stay the night.
Second day: Drive from Monterrey either to Valles, 324 miles, or to Tamazunchale, 390 miles. The best place for lunch is, I think, Ciudad Victoria.
Third day: Drive from Valles or Tamazunchale to Mexico City. It will be a drive of 228 miles from Tamazunchale and 294 miles from Valles.
Your third day will necessarily be slow. For a stretch of 60 miles, you will be climbing the mountains, and for another 70, you will be right in the mountains. Any speed over 25 or 30 miles an hour is dangerous. Besides, there is a great deal to see, and you will want time to see it.
You must remember that in Mexico it is unsafe to drive at a high speed. Cattle roam at will, and there is every likelihood that they may wander on to the road. A good rule to follow when you see cattle beside the road is to slow down, and if they have their heads up, slow down to a crawl. If they have their heads down grazing, you are fairly safe in passing straight on. You may wonder why I insist on asking you to take these precautions. I speak from experience. The last time I met cattle in the road with their heads up, I slowed down to 20 miles an hour. A little calf jumped in front of my front wheel. I braked and swerved to avoid him, but I wasn't quick enough, and the car turned over. I had three stitches taken in my scalp as a result, so you can understand why 1 speak feelingly of this particular danger.
Be careful also to drive slowly through towns, no matter how small. Very often you will see pigs and dogs (and children) cavorting around in the middle of the road. One of the worst frights I ever had was caused by a half-grown pig which started to cross the road when I was driving toward him. I carefully gauged my speed to pass behind him as he went across when suddenly he sat down in the middle of the road to think things over. Only good brake lining and brand new skid-proof tires saved the pig's life, and perhaps mine.
The Mexican roads are marked in kilometers. A kilometer is approximately five eighths of a mile, or, more accurately, 0.62137 mile. A convenient method of reducing kilometers to miles is to multiply by 6 and point off 1. This is not entirely accurate, however. It will show 80 kilometers as being 48 miles, when, as a matter of fact, it is 49.7 miles. A hundred kilometers, instead of being 60 miles, as your rough calculation would show, would actually be 62.137 miles. However, the variation is so slight (except for large distances, of course), that you can safely use this method in most cases.
You will also pass a great many altitude signs in meters. A meter is 3.28083 feet, but for rough figuring, you can use 3 1/4.
The roads in Mexico are well policed. As a rule, the authorities tend to be more lenient with tourists than they are with the natives, but this is no cue for you to let down the bars. On the contrary, you are even more obligated, because of this courteous treatment, to exercise caution.
Except for the payment of a bridge toll, there are no formalities on the American side of the border. On the Mexican side, you will stop for your customs inspection on the way into Mexico. You will find the CUSTOMHOUSE just as pleasant an experience as a customhouse can be. They do everything possible to facilitate the examination. Your entrance papers are first examined, and here you should be prepared to show your car registration, which will be accepted as proof of ownership.
As soon as the immigration formalities are completed, which formalities, may I remark, are far less terrifying than they appear, your baggage will be taken from the car for examination.
You will be assisted at the customs by an English speaking interpreter supplied by the M.A.A. (Mexican Automobile Association), and to the best of my knowledge he does not expect any remuneration; at least, he has always run away before I had a chance to give him any. The customs officials are courteous, and if you cooperate with them, will do everything to pass you through rapidly. Your bags will be sealed with paper seals. Fifteen miles from Nuevo Laredo there is a federal inspection station where they will ask again for your papers and where they may examine your luggage. If these seals are broken at that station, you may have to have your luggage examined again. Several guidebooks which I have consulted show another federal station 105 miles in on the other side of Sabinas Hidalgo. It may have been there once, but I could not find it, and as far as I know, it is no longer there.